Posts Tagged ‘Cool Ghouls’

Cool Ghouls – “Helpless Circumstance”

Happy to have some more news out of the Cool Ghouls camp today. After that stellar first single from Ryan and Alex’s Supreme Joy, the Ghouls themselves announce a new album on the way from Empty Cellar in March. “Helpless Circumstance” finds the band right back in the sunshine glow of their stum n’ twang, with the harmonies as thick as ever, but this time the band moves the needle from ‘60s tangle to an ‘80s underground swell that hits the hearts of Homestead, Throbbing Lobster and Bus Stop fans. The skies feel wider, but the smog seems a bit thicker on “Helpless Circumstances,” with the cheery melodies shuddered by uncertainty and sighing heavy with melancholy. There’s been a groundswell of new janglers lately, but the Ghouls have always been ahead of the curve on that front. Nice to see that the band evolving their take while still checking off more than a few boxes that feel quintessentially bound to the band. The new LP, At George’s Zoo is out March 12th from Empty Cellar in the US and Melodic in the UK.





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Cool Ghouls – Live ’19

Its been a little while since I’ve heard a peep from one of San Francisco’s finest, Cool Ghouls and while news of a new album would be amazing, a live document recorded at the city’s great psychedelic epicenter, The Chapel isn’t a bad gift either. The band runs through a good portion of their best, fleshing them out in ways that thicken up their jangle with a good dose of guitar flash. There have been some pretty essential live albums coming down in the past year with Howlin’ Rain, Wooden Ships, and Mythic Sunship all turning in live wire workouts and this one stands poised to stand alongside of them .Check out a burning version of “Animal Races” from the upcoming set below.




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Pat Thomas

Cool Ghouls’ Pat Thomas ventures out solo for a second time, with a concise LP of tracks that pick at his personal indulgences outside of the breezy confines of his day gig with the Ghouls. Naturally there’s a general veneer of Cali-cool about the LP, but Thomas winds the album around a stylistic maze that sometimes meshes and sometimes clashes. There’s a prevalent thread of ‘70s AOR that pops up throughout the record, dipping his toes in the sharkskin slick pop of Steely Dan and tangling his tongue around the kind of pop nonsequitors that would make Joe Walsh check his hydration levels and belly back to the bar. Its here that Thomas seems most comfortable, flipping the background fizz of radio staples into winking pop nuggets. He dons the disguise well enough to slip into the grownups’ party but the sparkle in his eye and the flask in his pocket says he’s not planning on playing it cool for long.

Sometimes, though, the winking gets a bit too heavy and Thomas lets his disguises tumble and drop. He goes full ’60 bubblegum pop on “Are You Okay,” but rather than adopting the candy thick pop hooks and carefree attitude like The Dirtbombs achieved on their tribute to the sound, he goes for the clash and clang of The Banana Splits picking out covers of Sgt Pepper’s most over the top moments. It’s a bit too heavy on the sound effects to be more than pastiche leaning nostalgia. He finds the balance a bit better, though, on “What Is Coming,” a jittery new wave wobble that pecks at David Byrne’s bug-eyed ballast to great effect.

Horns get put through their paces on I Ain’t Buyin’ It, whip-lashing from grandeur to gloss to kinked-up skronk. They might actually be the most cohesive through-line to the whole record, shading each track with a brass sheen. Is a hodgepodge to be sure, but a well-constructed one and while the playing is ace it just feels like many of these might have been the start of a few different records all vying for dominance. Thomas has always had a deft hand in Cool Ghouls and its nice to see him shake out the wrinkles a bit and go for broke. If this is the odds and sods, then so be it, no one says every record is a front-to-back keeper. It’s a fun, if frivolous collection held together by faded yellow cellophane tape like the dollar bin names it checks. There’s definitely a few keepers in the bunch and in hindsight, I’ll be interested to see how this all leads to the next Cool Ghouls sound.



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Pat Thomas – “The Money Guys”

Told you it was a good time for the Bay this week, and here comes your next reason. Cool Ghouls have consistently stunned with their catalog of country-curled psych rock, with not a bummer in the bunch of their three albums. Now the band’s Pat Thomas is striking out on his own and tucking into the AOR shimmer of the ‘70s. He heralds his upcoming sophomore solo LP, I Ain’t Buyin’ It, with the golden glow of “The Money Guys.” The track hinges on the soft-focus horns and cellophane riffs that tied Chicago, The Doobies Bros. and Steely Dan together with late period Tim Buckley.

The track takes down economic inequality and does it while wearing boat shoes. It’s a ‘70s lounge jam critical of the man as played from the hired piano of venture capitalists’ own yachts. No one’s paying attention at the party so you might as well spite ‘em, eh? I’m eager to see where Pat takes the sound on this, too much of a plunge through ‘70s cheese could sink into pastiche, but if he keeps striking a balance between smooth strings and an acid tongue, then it could soar above easy listening.



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Cool Ghouls

Not all EP’s are created equal, and often when connected with a tour, the word ‘asset’ gets tossed around more than the word release. So, it’s comforting to know that even on a stopgap tape they created for tour, the band still maintains a high caliber of songwriting. Not that I’d call most Cool Ghouls releases regimented, but this has a looser feel than most of their work – delving into instrumental psychedelics to stretch out their stage muscles a bit, but more often, crafting breezy West Coast country psych ramblers that swell with jangles and amber hues.

On the tape’s title track, they’re at their faded AM best, flipping through the kind of private press psych that burns the mind and warms the insides. They’re cycling through their Byrds lineage well, picking from the band’s permutations while hinting at great imitators like The Wizards From Kansas or Sapphire Thinkers and even a bit of Moby Grape as well. The EP isn’t as coalesced as they’ve been on record, but it feels like a way to indulge some influences in a great way. To be honest the loose production suits them so well, it makes me hope that they carry over the general vibe of this into their next proper album. Hard to get a bad bump from the ghouls, and this paints them as ardent ’60 psych fans with deep shelves.


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Cool Ghouls – “Sundial”

Its always good to have Cool Ghouls back in my life, and on the verge of Summer no less. The first peek at their upcoming album, Animal Races is steeped in the same ’60s jangle that has long defined them, bringing up thoughts of a more swooning Byrds or Flaming Groovies during their Cyril Jordan years. Kelley Stoltz continues to be the secret weapon in any band’s back pocket. He imbues the track with a sparkling view of the pop paradigm they’ve been itching at for the past two albums. The track practically pools with cool water harmonies and warm breezes and every note is ready to tug at a the heart with just a subtle twinge of nostalgia for lazy days with nothing to do but watch the waves. No doubt this is just the first thread to pull before the rest of the album unravels in cascades of sunny West Coast pop goodness.



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